Tuesday, March 23, 2010


The Academic Friends of Israel

22 March 2010

The view from Britain-Hate war on campus to be "stamped out"

The Reut Institute recently described London as one of the "Hubs of Delegitimisation" where a widespread network of anti-Zionist groups, hostile human rights organisations and home grown radical Islamists use cultural, academic, legal and financial weapons to campaign against the delegitimisation and demonisation of the State of Israel.
Therefore it is no surprise that over the last three months there have been many protests and actions by anti-Israel/anti-Zionist groups in Britain and on our campuses in particular , the latest being Israel Apartheid Week” at the beginning of March. Their protests will continue with the Boycotts Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] Global Day of Action on 30 March. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which will be putting an advert in the Guardian on that day, has also targeted students by encouraging them to involve Palestine student societies; trade union branches; faith groups and other sympathetic organisations to make BDS target relevant to each group – e.g. if a university has a contract with Eden Springs or Veolia.

Therefore the news that the Board of Deputies of British Jews has at long last put together a five-point action plan to combat this “virus of extremism" on Britain's university campuses is welcomed, but one has to ask why has it taken them so long when the worsening situation has been apparent to everyone else for many years. The answer is that the new leadership of the Board of Deputies is much more proactive than previous ones who preferred to work behind the scenes so as not to cause fuss which they believed resulted in increased Antisemitism. There is a time and place for everything but the policy of working behind the scenes has recently proved unsuccessful when the British government betrayed the Jewish community over promises made over "universal jurisdiction".

It has been apparent to many of us that our University Vice -Chancellors already have the necessary powers to deal with extremism and racism if they want to take action but many have been reluctant to “bit the bullet” for fear of offending one group or another or hide behind the ‘academic freedom’ or ‘freedom of speech’ banner. Therefore the recent decision by the Vice -Chancellor at Manchester University, after pressure from the Board of Deputies, to make speakers at last month's "Palestine Week" conference sign an undertaking not to incite hatred is most welcome and not before time. Speakers at that meeting included Azzam Tamimi of the Muslim Association of Britain, who had told a SOAS audience that he longed to be a martyr and that supporters of Hamas should not be afraid to be labelled terrorists.

If signing an undertaking not to incite hatred can work at Manchester University then it can work anywhere. We owe it to our students to give this decision the widest publicity and encouragement.

Remember also that the current generation of students is being brought up on a diet of ‘Israel is an apartheid state’ and ‘Israel is a racist state’ and this will influence their decision making when they are in positions of power and influence in 30 years time.

Ronnie Fraser

Director The Academic Friends of Israel